The Watered-Down Woman: A Modern Dating Epidemic
The other day I fell into conversation with a sweet, smart, Anthropologie-clad woman who made me want to shake her. Vigorously.
We were sitting next to one other at one of those long, communal cafe tables designed for laptop-junkies, and she wistfully explained that she’s wanted to rescue a dog for like, ever. She lives by herself in a pet-friendly apartment, has a good job, rarely travels, and would love to come home to a sweet little puppy dog at the end of the day. (Cause erm, who wouldn’t?)
She then went on to lament that even though she really wants a dog, she’s also single. Ugggh...
She looked at me like I should understand the dilemma.
When I didn’t catch on, she continued: what if she meets a guy who doesn’t like dogs? Or what if she falls in love with someone who’s allergic to dogs? Can you imagine?! He would be so turned off! The risk doesn’t seem worth it. So she continues to live dog-less, holding out for the dude.
MY HEAD ALMOST EXPLODED ALL OVER THE KEYBOARDS, CHAI LATTES, GRAD STUDENTS, AND DECORATIVE GOURDS SURROUNDING US. (She didn’t know who she was talking to, obviously.)
I quickly swallowed whatever snapped inside me and commiserated with her over this predicament, responding with something like, “Huh, I guess that makes some sense but if you really want a dog, maybe you should just get a dog.”
BECAUSE MAYBE WE SHOULD ALL BE GETTING DOGS. WE SHOULD BE OUT IN THE WORLD RESCUING DOGS RIGHT NOW. WHY WAIT, LADIES?! WHY WAIT FOR THE MAN WHEN WE COULD BE THRIVING WITH FIDO!?!
Okay okay, I’ll calm down. And clarify - this isn’t about getting a dog or not getting a dog. This is about a much bigger problem many of us have when it comes to making decisions, planning our futures, and living our (I loathe this cliche but it fits) “best lives”.
This kind of, “I should wait until I’m secure and settled down with someone before making ABC decision or living out XYZ dream,” thinking is something I encounter frequently in women. On the other hand, I’ve never had a conversation with a guy who hummed-and-hawed over doing or having something because he didn’t have a lady in his life. I’m sure it happens, but I’ve never encountered it.
I have however, encountered numerous examples of fierce, strong, intelligent women who don’t pursue something because they worry about the impact it will have on their love lives. Or, they assume it will be safer to be/do/have it once there’s a steady guy in the picture.
NUMEROUS HEAD-EXPLODING EXAMPLES.
A lovely, capable, passionate girlfriend of mine has talked for years about quitting her 9-to-5 job to pursue her acting career, but wouldn’t that seem flakey to prospective partners? What guy wants a financially unstable, head-in-the-clouds aspiring actress? She continues to put her dream on hold…
A super beautiful, badass, take-no-shit former coworker of mine has been designing a stunning sleeve-tattoo since college but worries that if she gets it, she’ll be eliminating a population of guys who might be interested if they weren’t so intimidated by the ink…
HEAD EXPLODING. EVERYWHERE.
And to put the onus equally on me: When my YouTube channel started getting some traction, I remember worrying about how it would be received by any future men I dated. Would my online persona be “too much” for him? What about all my swearing? What would his mom think?
What the fuck, ladies? What the actual fuck??
Who are these imaginary goobers we’re worried about scaring off? Who are these dudes who detest self-expression, and shame individuals who pursue their dreams and share their opinions? And WHY ARE WE TRYING TO ACCOMMODATE THEM?
Even among the women I know who relentlessly pursue their BEST LIVES, doing their own damn thing and living flagrantly outside the box, there is often a shadow of, “Maybe I’m living a little too ‘out loud’…maybe I’m scaring them off…maybe I should tone it down or shrink back or change myself to accommodate this imaginary horde of men I’m trying to win over…”
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO I can’t say it enough the answer is NO.
The freakishly honest truth: The guy who wants? Want you. Your quirks. Your dreams. Your feelings. Your style. Your flavor.
No, not every guy wants a woman with a sleeve tattoo, but the guy who does will love that about you and find it insanely attractive.
No, not every guy wants to be with an actress. But the one who does will support you and love that acting is part of who you are.
And not every man wants a broad, opinionated woman who swears like a sailor on the internet, but the man who does loves me because of those things, not in spite of them.
None of us should be attempting to attract some generic version of “more guys”. We don’t want more guys, we want the right guys. The right guys for us. And what makes him right for you is that he is specifically interested and hot-to-trot over who you uniquely are.
And what clues someone into who you are is how you live: how you spend your time, how you express yourself, what you believe. Your appearance, demeanor, habits, inner world, and lifestyle all fit into this. That’s what makes up your yummy, one-of-a-kind flavor.
Do you even know what your flavor is? Do you know what makes you tick? What drives you crazy? What makes you feel super extra alive? What calms you down? What kind of art or music speaks to your soul? Start owning this stuff. This stuff is all part of your particular flavor.
And here’s the thing about flavors: not everyone is going to like yours. This doesn’t mean you’re the wrong flavor, or a bad flavor, it just means you’d like to connect with more men who can’t get enough of your flavor. The real problem arises when you start to water yourself down to appeal to the masses. (Most of us weren’t made for mass appeal, so stop trying.)
No. More. Watering. Down! No more shying away from who you really are. No more living life at half-volume because you worry your soundtrack will repel some single man out there in the universe. Fuck ‘em. If they don’t like it they can go listen to something else or put in some earplugs.
Your job is to let the truth of who you are shine as brightly as you possibly can. Sometimes we’ve been evading our truth, watering ourselves down for so many people for so long that we don’t even know where to begin. That’s okay too. Your truth is ever-changing and always evolving. So start with what piques your interest and calls you loudly today.
Take the trip, take up baking, dye your hair, quit the job, get the tattoo, start the YouTube channel, and for the love o’ God: GET THE DOG. Life is too short to wait for Prince Charming’s approval. Live like you’re already in “happily ever after” and he’s ten times more likely to find you there.
And even if he doesn't for a long, long time, hopefully you'll be having too good of a time to notice. Because shouldn't having a good time always be the goal? Single, taken, it doesn't really matter. Having a blast being your full-flavored self will always win out over being a muted, watered down version of someone else. Full flavor, or bust.
FULL FLAVOR. OR BUST.